Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tavi Gevinson's ROOKIE Teaches Teens How to Masturbate



Illustration by Emma D. via Rookie


Here is what is written in the About section of Rookie magazine:

Rookie is an online magazine and book series for teenagers. Each month, a different editorial theme drives the writing, photography, and artwork that we publish.

Rookie is edited by nineteen-year-old Tavi Gevinson. I became acquainted with Gevinson in 2014 after reading her New York magazine profile which promoted her first Broadway performance in This Is Our Youth. (I picked up a used copy of the raunchy teen play from Strand since the Broadway performance was cost prohibitive as it would be for most New York City based writers.)

Last week, while I was making copies in the teen section of a Manhattan private library, I noticed Rookie Yearbook One edited by Tavi Gevinson standing between two other thick volumes. Among other solicitous content,  Rookie Yearbook One, which is the print edition of the online teen magazine, contained the article “Do It Yourself: What We Talk About When We Talk About Masturbation” by Jamie. 

Jamie wrote, fulfilling almost every man's fantasy about what takes place at nymphet sleepovers “Among my friends that are girls, secrets about masturbating make up the largest category of things that I am ill-advisedly made privy to. As soon as things get a little drunk-after-prom or giggly-at-a-sleepover, everyone gets all, “I totally masturbate … isn’t that CRAZY?!””

Jamie first learned about female masturbation when she was about fourteen: “I didn’t even know that female masturbation was a thing until my best friend came clean to me in the fall of freshman year. “What do you mean you’ve never masturbated?” she asked. “I thought everyone did.”

Here is a list of questions that Jamie wished that someone would have answered for her before she started masturbating as well as some vignettes on masturbation that she compiled:

1. Is masturbating wrong?

Jamie answered that some things are wrong like murder and bullying but that “Masturbation is a healthy, natural, NORMAL activity.”

2. Am I the first/last person in the world to try this?

Jamie answered this question by writing “Whatever age you decide to start masturbating, if you do, is “normal.”” And she related an anecdote from Danielle who shared that she started fingering herself in middle school: 

“I can’t even remember the first time I masturbated. I constantly humped just about everything when I was little … pillows, stuffed animals, etc. I never attached any sexual feelings or concepts to it until about middle school, which was the same time I first fingered myself. For me, I never considered humping or clitoral stimulation to be sexual until about that age.” –Danielle,* 19

3. Why should I masturbate?

Jamie answer by writing “…because you want to.”

4. So how do I actually do it?

In addition to using spit on the fingers as a lubricant, Jamie suggested the following:

“You can stick varying numbers of fingers inside of your actual vagina…”
“You can also try touching your clitoris.”
“In the same way that you can finger your vagina, you can also finger your anus (yes, that anus).”
And she recommended using the “shower sprayer”: “Spray it on top of your clit, not into your vagina. Start at a low setting.

Ellen shared that she started humping pillows in middle school, but she upgraded to a vibrator in high school:

“Back in the day, I mostly masturbated by lying in bed, face down, with a pillow between my legs, and humping the hell out of it. Eventually, in high school, some friends gave me a vibrator that was meant to be inserted, and I experimented with that quite a bit, including some anal play.”

5. Do I have to “come”? How do I know if I’ve had an orgasm?

Jamie answered by writing “You don’t have to do anything when you masturbate. The success or failure of masturbating has nothing to do with whether or not you orgasm, and everything to do with your enjoying yourself and feeling good.”  

Seventeen-year-old Sophie shared “Truthfully, I have never orgasmed when I masturbate. I’m still in pursuit.” However, eighteen-year-old Michelle revealed “I almost always orgasm, usually once, but sometimes twice. I guess I do consider it more of a ‘success’ when I do, but at the same time [unlike most males] I don’t think it’s a failure if I don’t orgasm.”


6. Should I watch porn? Is that gross? Am I gross if I like watching porn?

Jamie responded “There is nothing weird or gross about watching porn…”

In the Danish film  Anna (2009), Anna’s mother advised her to wait until she turned sixteen to watch porn. And in the French film Puppylove (2013) fourteen-year-old Diane took a break from her homework to watch some hardcore double penetration four-way pornography which she refused to turn off despite the plea of her father. Coincidentally, in the very next scene, Diane masturbated to orgasm in the bathtub.

Nineteen-year-old Erinn shared “I watch a lot of porn. Like, a lot. I used to think it was kind of a dirty thing that I couldn’t talk to a lot of people about. I felt a lot better about masturbating and watching porn, though, after I started talking to my friends and (now ex-) boyfriend about it.”


7. If I don’t like masturbating, is something wrong with me?

According to Jamie, “No”.


8. Is there a way I can refer to female masturbation without sounding like a health-class teacher?

Readers of Rookie suggested using the synonyms rubbing one out, wanking, frigging, jilling and getting off. 


Interestingly, especially when taken in the current context, Gevinson was named one of "The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014" by Time magazine. And she was recently a guest star on Scream Queens where she was having an affair with her mid-fifty-year-old college professor which was loosely based on Mia Farrow's affair with composer and orchestra conductor AndrĂ© Previn.


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